Northern California coast picture snapped in 1997 on one of our (David and Anna) many trips. We both loived nature and David loved driving so it was a perfect fit.

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Surfing the Quantum: Notes of Lifecareer® Developing

Anna Miller-Tiedeman

ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services, Greensboro, NC.
Moving on from Traditional Career

Many people believe, if you don't know where you're going, you'll probably end up somewhere else. My experience suggests that even if you do know where you're going, you'll still probably end up somewhere else. Wherever you end up, if you work with the life force, you'll enjoy the journey. That's more likely to happen when you follow your own inclinations and live your life as career. I believed that before I ever knew a field of career development existed. I still believe it, perhaps even more. I believe that life is much more creative than any of us humans, fortunately. I also believe that life is in charge, not us.

In graduate school, no one hinted that Life might qualify as the Big Career. That omission opened up my life work, although I didn't know it then. The following story recounts my deliberate living of life as process, what I ran up against and what I learned.

After graduate school, I worked in the Appalachia Educational Laboratory in Charleston, West Virginia. My first year I researched the decision-making literature. This raised more questions than answers for me. While there, I met David V. Tiedeman, the career theorist whose writing I found most fascinating in graduate school. I discussed with him my concern that teaching about good and best decision making lacked something. David listened, I talked, but no answers formed. (In a magical turn of life, David and I later married. But that's another story.)

Next, I worked in a middle school observing decisions about individual differences and tolerance. Then I moved to the high school, my interest in decision making still strong, I developed the Pyramidal Model of Decision Making (1977). I took the styles of Lillian Dinklage (1968), the stages of David Tiedeman (1961), and the levels created by Eugene Wilson (1971), and merged them into a working whole which I used to teach students decision making. When students didn't enjoy learning about decision making, I realized something wasn't right.

Most of my learning and formation of beliefs concerning career development came from listening to students and clients, asking questions, opening my awareness, working to break out of the limited focus of the traditional career paradigm, and letting time pass. Not exactly a walk in the park, but a good way to let Life teach you experientially.

In my reading, I discovered a strong link existed between time urgency and increase in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, heart and respiratory rate, the blood levels of insulin, and other physical factors. So, I stopped formal career development activity, which I thought increased students' stress, and started to review their four-year plans with them. Voila, a sparkle appeared in their eyes.

In the meetings that followed with each of my 300 students during each of their four years of high school, many exciting things happened. I watched as they followed their own experience, intelligence, and intuition. (I didn't know it at the time, but this started my work on a process theory/philosophy.) While observing the decision process in action, I encouraged and facilitated self-chosen next steps, whether an A student wanted to avoid college or a D+ student vowed to go. I cared more about students learning from their own experience than from authoritative pronouncements. I only wanted to encourage the next step and drop concern about long-term goals, thereby enhancing health.

Working that way, I discovered I valued intentions more than goals. I watched students set goals, and, partially as a result of unmet goals, saw them worry, stress, and experience physical problems, not to mention depression and lowered self esteem. Goals tend to run in very narrow channels as Deepak Chopra, MD and author of Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body's Intelligence (1991) suggests, but the river of life doesn't work that narrowly. He further notes that the highest state of attention goes beyond goals and anchors internally with a balance between rest and activity. Both goal setting and traditional career attitudes encourage activity, with little focus on rest. Without the rests in music, little melody would emerge. The same holds true for a career developing.

In my work with students' four-year plans, I found they liked their decisions as much as any of us. One of them said, "If it doesn't go right, then I'll make another choice. And I do that as well as anyone." Student comments gave me courage to return to my own personal theory of career as did the comments of many counselors who told me that they never took a decision-making class nor did they ever want to.

That raised more questions concerning why career professionals placed a standard on students that they didn't follow themselves. It seems students received the same admonition Buckminster Fuller did as a youth, "Darling, never mind what you think. We are here to teach you." (1981, p. 56) Of course, about decision making.

Clearly, all the traditional career thought converged into the belief that if you plan well, all will work out. No fuzzy logic here. Business followed with, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail" which currently falls on hard times as noted by a recent CEO of Hewlett Packard. Furthermore, the information used to make plans came in Department of Labor and related kinds of publications and computer programs. Internal information, particularly that going counter to common wisdom, didn't usually enter into the equation of life direction, not to mention the information in the collective intelligence-probably the two best sources of life-direction information available to each person. But here you run into belief systems once again. If you don't believe in invisible information, you don't see it.

Considerable time passed, and I didn't know what to do next. I couldn't relate to the traditional and nothing else existed. I almost decided to switch into another discipline. Then Dr. Tom Kubistant sent me Zukav's, The Dancing Wu Li Masters (1979). That started me on a reading odyssey into the new science, a trip that continues to this day. One of Zukav's most important ideas is that it's not possible to observe reality without changing it. "According to quantum mechanics there is no such thing as objectivity" (p. 56). That idea liberated me from all those individuals in the past who had admonished me to be objective. Knowing that can never happen freed me even more to my own thought.

Then I read Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth (1988). He reminded me that none of us can know reality directly. We only construct ideas about it which represent our individual myths. Another paradigm (belief) breaks up when you realize all we hear from anyone about anything represents their beliefs and myths which often have little basis in our individual realities.

I continued to read in the new science. I discussed the ideas with my students. I attended workshops offered by physicists, several of them Nobel Prize winners. I tried my idea out on just about anyone who would stand still for discussion. All my reading in the new physics validated my experience of life-life patterns and works, not always the way we want it to, but it works.

The Life-As-Process Surfboard

In 1981, I moved with David (V. Tiedeman) to Los Angeles, and worked with him in the National Institute for the Advancement of Career Education. With time to think over my questions about traditional career, the idea of living life as process started to take shape in my mind, but not all at once. I'd like to think I started out with this great idea, but it only came in bits and pieces. I would write down each idea and place it in a folder, not knowing it would ever be worth anything later. Fortunately, an organization later appeared. I didn't know it then, but those bits and pieces contained my life mission. Granted, it took a long time to find it and an even longer time to develop it, but like it or not (and sometimes I didn't), I stopped off in the career development field to initiate thinking about life as process. I then knew that life-as-process, like the bread crumbs dropped by Hansel and Gretel, leads those ready for the personal journey back to their own knowing.

In constructing a process theory, I wanted it to:

1) empower the career theory of each individual;

2) be open, varied, and free, rather than limited by parts, levels and stages;

3) encourage flexibility rather than depend on pattern and prediction; and,

4) work well for all people in any situation.

And it does!

Reason and Rowan in their book, Human Inquiry: A Sourcebook of New Paradigm Research (1981) said, we need "to put people in positions where they may learn truth about themselves." Process theory does just that.

With no idea of the fear-raising impact of this idea on many counseling professionals, I jumped in, optimist that I am, and put my money on my belief in writing and publishing, In retrospect, I resembled the daring young professional on the Quantum trapeze. But I put How NOT to Make It...And Succeed: Life on Your Own Terms (1989) into the popular market. Then I wrote Lifecareer®: The Quantum Leap Into a Process Theory of Career (1988) for the academic community. Finally, I wrote LIFECAREER®: How ItCan Benefit You (1989, 1992), an application book.

At the beginning of each of the fourteen chapters in How NOT To Make It...And Succeed... I specify a difference between Traditional career and Lifecareer and these are also listed in Learning, Practicing, and Living the New Careering.

When you live life as process, you free up considerable energy. You gain a sense of balance and harmony. You don't rehearse what didn't work. You take the learning and move on. You don't sweat about finding a career or worry about a second or third career. All that becomes irrelevant when you live life as the Big Career. You learn that life works, not always the way you want it to, but it works. You know that cooperating with the approaching forces, while thinking, makes for less stress which enhances the immune system.

Surfing Life

As you can see in my tale, I first anchored the career development process in Life making it primary and job secondary. What do you gain when Life takes primary position? First, less stress that translates into a stronger immune system; second, a sense of satisfaction whether or not you experience a positive outcome in what you do; and third, an endorphin high when both health and satisfaction emerge.

Many dictionaries list as their first definition of career-a course or path through life. That responds to my passion for helping each individual live his or her own note while watching for life's signals that point to activities that fulfill the life mission. In this way, the individual adapts his or her choices to life, not the reverse. This offers good potential for better lab reports on blood pressure, cholesterol, and other biomarkers of wellness.

Second, I value individuals learning from experience of making decisions, from which they can then use to learn. I'm told that research indicates that we remember 20 percent of what we hear, 40 percent of what we hear and see, and 85 percent of what we hear see and do. That's why I want individuals to experience their decisions and speak from that experience. Further, I believe it important to embrace all of life, loving both the right and left decisions. Those left decisions teach us. They also add spice and challenge to life, when not denied. Besides, they provide employment for all of us.

Third, I now focus on the health benefits of living life in accordance with its own adaptive responses. This approach lowers stress and impacts the immune system in a positive direction. This frees up creativity and supports job-related activities whether a job search or on-the-job work.

Questions My Work Now Addresses

I now want to accommodate Quantum processes where the whole organizes the parts, not the reverse as in traditional career. For instance, I now wait for the questions to arise rather than ask block-busting questions in the beginning. Further, I only pay attention to the questions that keep returning. One such question: What format will offer an a ha experience about beliefs that limit our life direction? That led to a paradigm shift in my consulting and speaking. I now do interactive presentations that offer the audience an experience (and I did this with an audience of 300 on one occasion) not a telling of how their life-direction beliefs impede rather than advance their progress.

A second major question also kept visiting me: How can I offer counselor educators a user friendly text around the idea of life as process? With my partners from the beginning of this odyssey-David V. Tiedeman and Lee Joyce Richmond-I now lead the construction of such a manuscript on process living.

A third major question keeps my attention as well: Since I value each individual living his or her own career theory, how can I encourage each individual to ask his or her own questions and derive personally acceptable answers, and not depend on answers from those perceived as authority. It's all too easy to get caught in our own paradigms about authority, what it can or can't do for us. For instance, had I listened to David's doctor in 1990, David would not be here today.

Finally, the fourth major question persists: How can we raise question forming to equal status with question answering? In a world where answers can manifest in nanoseconds, question forming far outruns the time of getting answers. But here's where development comes in and that's a tomorrow's discussion.

So What?

The last fourteen years represent a dedication to quantum surfing the life process. An important rule in surfing is never surf alone. As you can tell from this story, I quantum surfed with all kinds of knowledgeable people. Each of them added to my understanding.

Real winners understand the importance of help. This suggests that, contrary to rugged individualism, none of us has all it takes to realize our dreams-another paradigm in need of shifting. For anyone who makes it, you can list from ten to twenty plus people who supported that journey. It's as natural as the late Lewis Thomas claims,

"The urge to form partnerships to link up in collaborative arrangements is perhaps the oldest, strongest, and most fundamental force in nature. There are no solitary, free-living creatures; every form of life depends on every other form.

" We should go warily into the future, looking for ways to be useful, listening more carefully for the signals, watching our step, and having an eye out for partners."


Campbell, J. (1988). The power of myth. New York: Doubleday & Co.

Chopra, Deepak, M. D. (1991). Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body's Intelligence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Dinklage, L. (1968). Student decision-making. Photocopy.

Miller-Tiedeman, A. How NOT to Make It...And Succeed: Life on Your Own Terms. Vista, CA: Lifecareer® Center, Vista, CA: 1078 La Tortuga Drive, 1989. 1-800-366-8612.

Miller-Tiedeman, A.LIFECAREER®: The Quantum Leap into a Process Theory of Career. Vista, CA: Lifecareer® Center, Vista, CA: 1078 La Tortuga Drive, 1988. 1-800-366-8612.

Miller-Tiedeman, A. LIFECAREER®: How It Can Benefit You. Vista, CA: Lifecareer® Center, Vista, CA: 1078 La Tortuga Drive, 1989. 1-800-366-8612.

Reason, P., & Rowan, J. (1981). Human Inquiry: A Sourcebook of New Paradigm Research, New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Tiedeman, D. V. (1961). Decision and vocational development: A paradigm and its implications. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 40, 15-20.

Wilson, E. H. (1971). The development and pilot testing of a system for the teaching of decision making. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University (unpublished doctoral dissertation).

Zukav, G. (1979). The dancing wu li masters. New York: William Morrow and Company.


Home, DVT Memorial Page, New Careering Values, New Careering History, Bookstore, Essays, Order Info, fax, e-mail, phone: Mastercard/VISA, Order Info: PayPal, Professional Help by Phone , Bio: Anna Miller-Tiedeman, Keynotes and Workshops, Bare Bones Nutrition, Model Resumes, Student Presentations.